I had an idea in my 30th week of pregnancy that I might have to have a cesarean. After hearing the lady in my childbirth class – who was a month ahead of me – describe how her breech baby felt – I knew my baby must be breech too. The doctor confirmed it and told me not to worry, because there was plenty of time for the baby to turn. However, I just somehow knew that she wouldn’t. Because I had felt the kicking in my bladder since about the 24th week I knew there must be a reason why she was head-up.
I had an ultrasound a week until my 36th week. My doctor began to let me know that we would probably plan a cesarean for about the 38th or 39th week. I just laughed, because my son was born at 35 weeks just 2 years prior. I then asked him specifically about labor and what to do. If I went into labor on my own, I was to labor for 1 hour at 5 minutes apart and then head to the hospital, which was a mile and a half from where we lived. I knew that I would not make it to my scheduled date.
At 36 weeks, just 2 days after I had sent my 2 year old son to stay with his Nana, my contractions started at exactly 7 PM. I had already had false labor just 5 days before and really wanted to be sure. Like clockwork, the contractions came every 5 minutes, lasting 60 to 90 seconds. I told my husband at 7:10 that I had had 3 contractions in the past 10 minutes. He got all excited and headed for the packed bags. I told him to hold off, and give it until 8 PM.
By 7:45 PM, I called my mother and told her and then my husband and I headed for the hospital. I told the nurses that my baby was breech and my doctor showed up within 20 minutes, hauling along the ultrasound machine. He checked and sure enough, the baby was head up. He told me that it was ultimately up to me to have the cesarean, but that he had already assembled the surgical team, and they were waiting. I was confused and told him that he was the doctor and to make the decision. All he said was, ‘If you were my wife, you’d have the cesarean. But if you choose to deliver vaginally, we’ll have to have you prepped for an emergency cesarean. You should know that it’s not without risks to the baby, such as the cord prolapsing, cord around the neck, etc. Needless to say, I signed the consent.
The prep time made me extremely nervous. I had one nurse inserting an IV into my arm and another inserting the catheter while the surgical team came in one at a time and introduced themselves. By the time I was wheeled into surgery and had the epidural inserted, I was shaking. They laughed at me because I hadn’t even had any drugs yet. But I was about to be cut open and my baby was born. It was very nerve racking.
The surgery itself didn’t take long. I smelled something burning and asked what it was. My sweet husband simply smiled at me and said, ‘Just think, our baby’s about to be born.’ He was positioned at my head and couldn’t see what they were doing to me. We simply heard the procedure and I felt no pain. Except I did feel extremely nauseous. This was because of the combined spinal/epidural I had.
Brianne Laurel entered the world at 11:23 PM, December 16, 1997. I vaguely remembered seeing her briefly as they whisked her past me and to the warming table. Because she was considered preterm, they wanted to check her out right away. I heard her cry and cry and kept asking my husband if someone was with her. Of course, she had her doctor and nurse. My husband then went with her to the nursery to watch her first bath. I honestly can’t remember if I saw her again or not, because the nausea was getting worse.
As they wheeled me into the recovery room, I vomited and felt so helpless and awful. I had really hoped that I could have held her while I was being stitched up, like I always see on A Baby Story, but because of her prematurity, they wouldn’t let me. I do feel cheated there, I really wanted to hold her right away.
I finally did get to hold and nurse her about an hour after I was brought to my room. I felt fairly satisfied, because she latched on right away. It was a good feeling looking into her little face and seeing the resemblance to her big brother.
The cesarean was a shock to my body. I had a lot of trouble with gas in my shoulder and the pain was so bad I could hardly hold Brianne on that side. Every time they brought me medication and inserted it into the epidural caudal, I vomited. It took me almost 2 whole days before I could get out of bed. Every time they tried, I nearly vomited and passed out. I felt so helpless.
When I finally went home, it was much harder for me to simply walk around and climb the 2 short steps up to my house. I never realized the impact of cutting those muscles! I had it in my mind to quit taking the pain medication, because it left me in such a drowsy state. But as soon as the last dose wore off, I was desperate for another dose. The pain was constant, unless medicated for about a solid week. I finally, reluctantly, quit taking them on the advice of Brianne’s pediatrician.
Brianne had a severe case of jaundice and had to be re-hospitalized. So did I, because my breast milk was a part of her treatment. Going off the medication wasn’t too bad at this point – 1 week after the cesarean. Mobility was another story. Because of the severed muscles, I could not simply sit up – like I used to do so easily. I had to literally roll out of bed and slowly amble my way around.
I don’t regret having made the decision to have the cesarean, because I feel it was best for Brianne. But I don’t understand how some women would choose a cesarean over natural birth. I had a vaginal birth with my son, Tad and even though I had an episiotomy that hurt for a solid 10 days, it was nothing compared to the pain from the recovery over the cesarean. I assumed that I would bounce back just as quickly with Brianne as I did with Tad, but that wasn’t so. With Tad, I was up a few hours after his birth, with Brianne, it was days.
I’ll say one thing in closing, I will do everything possible to have a VBAC with my now 3rd baby. I suggest to every woman to educate herself. Find out all you can about cesareans, how to avoid them, how to cope with them. Ignorance here is not bliss and knowing all you can about labor and childbirth beforehand can be of paramount importance. Know your rights as well. Education is the best thing to prepare for cesareans, planned or unplanned. Every pregnant woman should learn about them, because you never know when the need may arise for a cesarean.